SAN BERNANDINO — Compared to the turf surfaces it’s accustomed to, the playing field at Indian Springs must have felt like a pile of rocks to the Hart boys soccer team.
The real grass was one thing. But that grass presented itself in lumpy patches parceled around the field, essentially eliminating the possibility of a true bounce or roll.
As Hart acclimated to the unique conditions, Indians Springs jutted out to an early three-goal lead and the Indians never recovered, losing 5-1 in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 semifinals on a chilly Tuesday afternoon.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” said Hart coach Adonay Jovel. “They have fast kids and are very technical and they know how to use this field.
“ … They know where the ball bounces and everything about the field. There’s no excuse, though. They played better than we did.”
Hart’s season may not be wrapped up just yet. The Indians (18-7-2) could still earn an at-large berth into the CIF State tournament.
Indian Springs (20-2-7) made it a 2-0 game in the 13th minute, with goals coming from Christian Duarte and Elises Godinez.
Both sides agreed that the game’s turning point came in the 19th minute, though.
That’s when the Coyotes denied a penalty-kick attempt from Jacob Tomaszewski following a handball in the penalty box. Three minutes later, Juan Aparicio put Indian Springs up 3-0 with a left-to-right grounder that evaded Tomaszewski, who shifted from goalkeeper to forward for the second half.
“I think if we put that PK away, our momentum would’ve been going a little better,” Jovel said. “We never built the momentum back up after that. But you can’t look back now.”
Indian Springs shared a similar sentiment.
“Huge confidence-booster for us,” said Indian Springs coach Isaac Canella. “Honestly, I think if they would’ve made that goal the game would’ve been a lot tougher than it was.”
After 40 minutes to adjust to the bumpy playing field, Hart’s attack improved in the second half. But the Indians’ only goal of the day came on a penalty kick from Darwin Herrera in the 75th minute.
Juan Lara had put the Coyotes up 4-0 with a shot from over 30 yards out in the 52nd minute and Jesse Hernandez punched in their final goal of the contest in the 78th minute.
“I think our guys didn’t play as well in the first half; didn’t stay focused,” Jovel said. “We challenged the center of field more in the second half but we gave away too many silly goals away.”
Hart was making its first appearance in a Southern Section semifinal since losing in the Division 4 final in 2015. Indian Springs will head to its second consecutive Southern Section final after losing to Citrus Hill in the Division 5 final last year. The Coyotes went on to beat Citrus Hill to win last year’s CIF Southern Regional championship.